Hil­lary goes on the at­tack: De­bate turns into shout­ing match

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - By Christina Bellantoni

Sen. Hil­lary Rod­ham Clin­ton on Nov. 15 re­tal­i­ated against her two main chal­lengers for the first time — say­ing nei­ther has taken bold stances on the is­sues.

Mrs. Clin­ton, of New York, said in the CNN de­bate that she is the most tested pres­i­den­tial can­di­date who can beat Repub­li­cans, and sharply crit­i­cized Sen. Barack Obama of Illi­nois and for­mer Sen. John Ed­wards of North Carolina.

“I don’t mind tak­ing hits on my record on is­sues, but when some­body starts throw­ing mud, at least we can hope that it’s both ac­cu­rate and not right out of the Repub­li­can play­book,” said Mrs. Clin­ton, who be­gan by jok­ing that she pre­pared for de­bate com­bat by wear­ing a pantsuit made of as­bestos.

She added, “Repub­li­cans are not go­ing to va­cate the White House vol­un­tar­ily” and, “we need some­one who is tested and ready to lead.”

Mrs. Clin­ton also blasted Mr. Obama’s health care plan be­cause it does not, like her own, man­date cov­er­age. In­stead, he has pro­posed mak­ing cov­er­age more af­ford­able and man­dat­ing cov­er­age for chil­dren.

“His plan would leave 15 mil­lion Amer­i­cans out. That’s about the pop­u­la­tion of Ne­vada, Iowa, South Carolina and New Hamp­shire,” she said, re­fer­ring to four of the first nom­i­nat­ing states.

The de­bate in­cluded at times an­gry ex­changes among the three ma­jor can­di­dates, with the Democrats speak­ing over each other and ap­pear­ing clearly frus­trated.

Mr. Obama came out swing­ing, say­ing vot­ers are seek­ing “straight an­swers to tough ques­tions and that is not what we’ve seen out of Sen­a­tor Clin­ton on a host of is­sues.”

“What I want to do in this cam­paign is make cer­tain that we are break­ing out of the grid­lock and the par­ti­san­ship and the stan­dard prac­tices of Wash­ing­ton and ac­tu­ally start lis­ten­ing to the Amer­i­can peo­ple to get things done,” he said.

Mrs. Clin­ton hit back with the health care ar­gu­ment. Next up was Mr. Ed­wards, who said the for­mer first lady won’t bring change to Wash­ing­ton.

“She [. . . ] con­tin­ues to de­fend a sys­tem that does not work, that is bro­ken, that is rigged and is [. . .] cor­rupted against the in­ter­est of most Amer­i­cans and cor­rupted for a very small, very pow­er­ful, very well-fi­nanced group,” he said, re­peat­ing an ar­gu­ment that he uses on the cam­paign trail to push his uni­ver­sal health care plan, which he says will buck spe­cial in­ter­ests.

Mrs. Clin­ton was quick to re­spond with a re­minder: “When Sen­a­tor Ed­wards ran in 2004, he wasn’t for uni­ver­sal health care. I’m glad he is now.”

Sev­eral can­di­dates were vis­i­bly ir­ri­tated dur­ing the first few ex­changes, and there were mo­ments when at least three can­di­dates or mod­er­a­tor Wolf speak­ing at once.

“The Amer­i­can peo­ple don’t give a darn about any of this stuff that’s go­ing on up here,” said Sen. Joseph R. Bi­den Jr. of Delaware, go­ing on to tout his own ex­pe­ri­ence.

“They’re wor­ried about whether or not their child is go­ing to run into a drug dealer on the way to school. They’re wor­ried about whether or not they’re go­ing to be able to pay for their mort­gage,” he said, “whether they’re go­ing to

Bl­itzer were keep their job. And they’re wor­ried about whether their son in the Na­tional Guard’s go­ing to get killed in Iraq.”

Sen. Christo­pher J. Dodd of Con­necti­cut agreed the tone of the evening wouldn’t solve the na­tion’s prob­lems. “We want a Demo­cratic can­di­date who can unite our party. And I think if we waste time on the shrill­ness of this de­bate, then we lose the Amer­i­can peo­ple,” he said.

Some in the au­di­ence re­acted with boos when Mr. Obama and Mr. Ed­wards men­tioned Mrs. Clin­ton.

Early in the de­bate, Mr. Obama jumped on Mrs. Clin­ton’s tri­an­gu­la­tion on whether il­le­gal aliens should get driver’s li­censes, say­ing: “It took not just that de­bate but two more weeks be­fore we could [get] a clear an­swer, in terms of where her po­si­tion was.”

But later, Mr. Obama was tripped up on the is­sue, say­ing it isn’t so sim­ple.

“The prob­lem we have here is not driver’s li­censes. Un­doc­u­mented work­ers do not come here to drive,” he said. “In­stead of be­ing dis­tracted by what has now be­come a wedge is­sue, let’s fo­cus on ac­tu­ally solv­ing the prob­lem that [. . .] the Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion had done noth­ing about.”

Asked again whether he sup­ports or op­poses li­censes, he said: “I am not propos­ing that that’s what we do,” a nearly iden­ti­cal side­step to what Mrs. Clin­ton did last month.

“This is the kind of ques­tion that is sort of avail­able for a yes or no an­swer,” Mr. Bl­itzer said, prompt­ing laugh­ter from the au­di­ence.

Clin­ton ad­viser Mark Penn later told re­porters that he was “sur­prised Obama didn’t come to the de­bate with an an­swer to that one.”

Obama ad­viser David Ax­el­rod dis­missed the li­cense ques­tion as a “a phony de­bate.”

“Ob­vi­ously, he’s not go­ing to ad­vance it as a pro­posal,” he said.

As­so­ci­ated Press

Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial front-run­ner Sen. Hil­lary Rod­ham Clin­ton went on the of­fen­sive against Sen. Barack Obama and her other op­po­nents dur­ing a de­bate at the Univer­sity of Ne­vada at Las Ve­gas.

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